Supply chain management is ‘more like rocket science’ than you might think

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“Thirty years ago, you would’ve been hard-pressed to find a vice president of supply chain at any retailer,” says Rick Schart, SVP of supply chain and ecommerce at Stein Mart. He started in the industry over 40 years ago in a very different environment — technology has been the biggest catalyst to evolution, and today computer systems for everything from warehouse management to transportation makes the job easier. Still, with the “incredible technology, and sophistication and complexity of it,” Schart says, it’s “more like rocket science.”

This week on Retail Gets Real, Schart describes the changes that have taken place and the qualities retailers look for in people who can get the job done.

In today’s complex retail world, “retailing is just one big supply chain,” Schart says. To serve the customer wherever they desire, whether it’s a bricks-and-mortar retail store or direct to a customer’s home, the precision of the logistics is paramount. Technologies like barcode scanning eliminate a lot of errors from the process, but elevate supply chain job requirements.

Rick Schart (right) joins Jessica Hibbard (center) and Bill Thorne (left) to record a podcast episode.

Rick Schart (right) joins Jessica Hibbard (center) and Bill Thorne (left) to record a podcast episode.

A natural disaster like a hurricane sets off chain reactions in every direction for Stein Mart’s global networks. Contingency plans are in place for events like hurricanes, fires and local flooding, but “you can’t plan for everything,” Schart says. To accomplish this massive feat, Schart relies on the competence of his team and business partners. Adaptability and flexibility are qualifying qualities, as is the ability to think on one’s feet.

Listen to the episode for details on specific tech solutions in supply chain and Schart’s guess on what’s next for the industry. Catch up on all past episodes of Retail Gets Real for a broader look at retail.

Nadee Bandaranayake is a part of NRF’s Retail Gets Real podcast team. Meet all the co-hosts and learn more about the show.